A Russian ship carrying vital fuel to a remote Alaskan port was set to finally deliver its load yesterday after battling through about 480km of Arctic ice, the US Coast Guard said.
Helped by a US Coast Guard ice-breaker, the Russian tanker Renda was within 11.3km of the port of Nome by late on Friday, but was proceeding very cautiously for its final approach.
“They’re trying to identify the best course and the best place to navigate into so that the Renda can get as close as possible, but that she’ll also be able to leave at the end of this,” Coast Guard spokesperson Veronica Colbath said.
“We’re almost there, but we’re not completely there yet and there’s still a lot of moving parts to this operation,” she said, adding that the Russian tanker has about 1.6km of hose on board for the delicate operation.
The Russian ship is carrying more than 4.9 million liters of fuel for Nome, a city of about 3,500 people which did not get its usual pre-winter oil delivery because of a storm in the fall.
It is the first time such a fuel delivery has been attempted through about 483km of ice in the depths of winter and wind and currents have made progress through the ice difficult.
The Renda, traveling in the wake of the US cutter Healy, has had to be repeatedly helped by the ice-breaker after ice built up around it, Colbath said. The bone-chilling weather is harsh even by Alaska’s standards: Colbath said temperatures had been down to minus-50?C on the two vessels.
By Friday, everything was set for the Russian ship to deliver its load, but the Coast Guard would not speculate on whether the operation was to have happened yesterday.